2013 Veto Session Missouri General Assembly-HB 339
The 2013 veto session in Jeff City has had its share of fireworks this year. The income tax bill and the gun "nullification" bill have received the most press, both on a national and local level. However, there was a little-noticed veto override which affects every Missouri motorist.
HB 339 requires uninsured drivers to "waive the ability to have a cause of action or otherwise collect for noneconomic loss" if they are injured by an insured driver. ("Noneconomic" losses are things like pain and suffering.) HB 339 has exceptions for uninsured motorists who are injured by a driver who was under the influence, or who is convicted of involuntary manslaughter or assault in the second degree. It also does not apply to uninsured drivers who had coverage within the last six months.
No Pay/No Play
A handful of other states, such as Kansas, have similar laws which are known as "No Pay/No Play" laws. Supporters argue that such laws prevent uninsured motorists from driving up costs for the system. Opponents argue that penalties for driving without insurance are already on the books that this law unfairly punishes somebody who was hurt through no fault of their own. A recent study shows that states which have No Pay/No Play laws see a very modest rate reduction which averages about 1.6% (about $5.10 per policy).
When Gov. Nixon vetoed the bill he argued that it was "riddled with ambiguity that will generate excessive litigation." Among the Governor's concerns about HB 339's ambiguity:
- It didn't adequately define "uninsured driver."
- It could block an uninsured driver from bringing a case for "economic damages" (i.e., medical bills and wage loss).
- It doesn't indicate who is to be the finder of fact on whether a driver was "intoxicated."
The House approved the override by a vote of 109-51-the bare minimum needed for a two-thirds majority-and only after GOP leaders held the vote open for several minutes in order to persuade several undecided members. The override easily passed in the Senate by a margin of 26-8.
The law goes into affect October 11, 2013 and it likely will lead to lawsuits across the state.